Victory was sweet today for Indy 500 racer Helio Castroneves. Earlier in the week he faced down and won against the IRS in court, returned to Indy Car racing in a flash, won the pole position for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, and helped his Roger Penske teamates to a rousing victory in the pitstop competition. Then, for the ultimate coup de grace, Castroneves went on to win today the 93rd Brickyard race by a 1.9819 second margin over runner-up Dan Wheldon and third-place finisher Danica Patrick on the 2.5-mile oval track.
Castroneves is no doubt savoring the rare racing air, adding a third Indy 500 victory to his illustrious career, reaching a status that only eight other racers have reached. And team owner Roger Penske is probably racing to another planet with the win being his fifteenth victory at the Speedway’s premier race.
But let’s not lose sight of our good Southern Nevada performances in the race.
Despite the race having five yellow flags and horrendous crashes, thirty-six year old Canadian Alex “Tag” Tagliani, who lives in Las Vegas, officially driving as a rookie for Conquest Racing in All Sport/Big Red car No. 36, achieved the honor of being the best-placing first-year man with his eleventh place finish.
Tag has a long history of competition in the former CART series and was very fortunate to get the nod by Conquest to race, bumping fellow teammate Bruno Junqueira that really had the best qualifying time, but was not their prime racer.
Talking at Saturday’s public press conference, Tagliani said, “I was so excited to drive that I didn’t really understand what I was missing by not being in the Indianapolis 500 race. Everything came along last year. Obviously, the two series merged, we have now just one open-wheel series. I finished the season with Conquest. That got me to run with them this year. When we arrived here in Indy, I definitely didn’t realize how big this race was.”
Not to be outdone, fellow rookie Englishman Alex Lloyd, aka Pink Lloyd, racing the pink car No. 99 sponsored by HER (Healthy Energy Revitalizer, an energy drink for women) started in the middle of the fourth row with an impressive four-lap average qualifying speed of 222.622 mph, and went on to finish the race, finishing 13th.
Lloyd’s car owner is Sam Schmidt from Henderson, Nevada.
Only three other rookies finished this year’s Indy 500 race: Tomas Scheckter, 12th place; Scott Sharp, 14th place; and Ryan Briscoe, 15th place.
Both Tagliani and Lloyd finished ahead of many veteran race car drivers including A.J. Foyt IV and John Andretti.
Thankfully, there were no serious injuries among drivers or crew in the race, although racer Vitor Meira was transported alert and awake to Indianapolis Methodist Hospital for further evaluation of back pain and released.
The Indy Car series takes no break this week before returning to action this weekend at the famous Milwaukee Mile on June 1st.
(Prior Las Vegas Backstage Access articles on the Indy 500 race.)